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Disallow jailhouse informant testimony that lacks corroboration | READER COMMENTARY

In this June 8, 2017 file photo, Innocence Project lawyer Vanessa Potkin, left, hugs Alfred Swinton, in Superior Court in Hartford, Conn. Swinton served almost two decades in prison for the 1991 killing of Carla Terry before he was cleared based on new DNA evidence. Several states have moved to toughen regulations on the use of jailhouse informants.
In this June 8, 2017 file photo, Innocence Project lawyer Vanessa Potkin, left, hugs Alfred Swinton, in Superior Court in Hartford, Conn. Swinton served almost two decades in prison for the 1991 killing of Carla Terry before he was cleared based on new DNA evidence. Several states have moved to toughen regulations on the use of jailhouse informants.(Mark Mirko/AP)

The problem with jailhouse informants is that they are not motivated to tell the truth (“When innocent people go to prison, jailhouse informants are often to blame. Some Maryland lawmakers want to change the system,” Feb. 13). They are motivated to say whatever the prosecutor wants them to say, and there are no negative consequences for perjuring themselves to help prosecute someone. Not even a slim chance of negative consequences.

The problem with a proposed law that would address this is that it doesn’t go far enough. Identifying a jailhouse informant as being unreliable can take years until some of their falsely accused victims are exonerated. In a situation where a witness is highly motivated to lie and not at all motivated to tell the truth, the only reasonable thing to do is to disallow any jailhouse informant testimony that is not supported by a recording of the supposed confession.

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Henry Farkas, Pikesville

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